When Crystal Palace signed Max Meyer on a free last summer it was seen as one of the transfer coups of the window, although the German maestro has yet to show why the Eagles are paying him such extraordinary wages – Meyer is up there with the club’s top earners, raking in an eye-watering £125,000-a-week.
With Wilfried Zaha the only player earning more (£130,000-a-week) you’d expect the diminutive number seven to be pulling all the strings and to be a fixture in the starting XI; that isn’t the case, with James McArthur and left-back Jeffrey Schlupp usually preferred in midfield.
With Yohan Cabaye departing in the same window, it was essential that Palace replaced the Frenchman’s playmaking capabilities and, while he should be able to on paper, Meyer has failed to cut the mustard so far.
However, one player who could fill that void is in fact already on the books at Selhurst Park: Nya Kirby. The 19-year-old has impressed when afforded starts while on loan at Blackpool this season and netted his first professional goal against League One leaders Luton Town on Saturday.
The youngster volleyed home with Andros Townsend-esque lethality from outside the box to level the scores in the 30th minute and Tangerines boss Terry McPhillips was full of praise for the midfielder:
“Matty (Virtue) stands up a lovely ball but Nya still has a hell of a lot to do and he finishes it with aplomb.
“That’s what he’s been doing in training and that’s why he’s been given the shirt, so it’s no shock to us.
“I’m really pleased for him because he’s a cracking lad. It’s his first league goal.
“The boys love him and he’s got the respect of the dressing room. He’s got some talent too and he’s produced it here.”
In just 204 league minutes for Blackpool, Kirby has chalked up one (spectacular) goal and two assists – a pretty impressive goal contribution rate for a player so young and inexperienced at professional level.
Of course, the jump from the third to first tier is a big one but Aaron Wan-Bissaka has proved that just one year can take a young talent from relative obscurity to stardom and there’s no doubt that Kirby has the potential to be special.
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A speedy attacking midfielder, the Englishman was part of the Three Lions’ World Cup-winning Under-17’s squad in 2017, in which he played six times out of a possible seven and scored the decisive penalty against Japan in the last-16.
Palace are in desperate need of a player who can create something out of nothing – besides Zaha, whose future is uncertain – and Kirby has shown in glimpses that he can be just that in the future.